“Lose weight, then we’ll talk.”
That was exactly what the doctor said twelve years ago when I went into his office to get help with my back pain.
What I wanted to say was, “Wow, what a great idea. Why have I never thought about that?”
Instead, I just added all the shame, feelings of failure, and hopelessness to the already hefty burden of stigma I carried around with my excess weight.
And I left. Not getting help for my back. Not getting help with weight loss. Not getting help for any of the things that were causing me so much pain and heartbreak.
All those feelings of defeat piled on. Negative thoughts rolled through my mind: “Even though I’ve tried everything, maybe I just don’t trust God enough. Maybe I’m just a weak person and a bad representation of Christ. Maybe I have no right to write or teach because of this area of my life I cannot get under control.”
For years (my whole life really), I have lived in this cycle of shame — not just from doctors, but from the church.
Medical professionals would tell me if I just tried harder, I could improve my physical health. And the church would let me know if I just believed harder, I could improve my spiritual health by not being fat.
And it made me not want to be in either place — the doctor’s office or the church.
But after trying and failing so many times, I realized I couldn’t just give up. I was in pain. And even though making and waiting for a doctor’s appointment to talk about my weight gave me huge anxiety, I knew I had to do it. Because when you’re desperate, you risk the shame.
I injured my back about twenty-five years ago while helping my parents move and it’s never been the same since. I tried physical therapy, injections, and patches, but the pain still persisted. And while I know that getting out and walking would help me lose weight so that my back wouldn’t hurt as much, walking hurts my back. It just felt like the most painful cycle of frustration ever.
So I made an appointment with a new doctor to talk about my weight. I’m long over believing that losing weight will fix everything, but I do know from experience that losing even ten pounds helps my back feel so much better. And while I’ve been able to lose the weight at times? Maintaining it has been impossible.
My new doctor asked me some questions, and we discussed my medical history. I told her all about what I’ve done before and how much I’ve struggled historically with all of this. I even mentioned that every other doctor has let me know that if only I would work harder, try more, and “not be so lazy” (direct quote) I could lose the weight.
So I waited for the lecture. Again.
She looked at my chart, pulled in her breath, and then looked me in the eye. “Kathi, I do not for one minute believe that you have not tried hard enough.”
And … I started bawling.
For the first time, someone in authority, whether it was a doctor, pastor, teacher, coach — someone, anyone — recognized my desire and my effort, and didn’t blame me for not trying hard enough.
Friends, I cannot tell you what that grace has done for me. It has changed my life and my outlook. That doctor has given me a hope that I have never truly experienced before.
Someone not only believes me, but she believes in me.
And friends? That changes everything.
In the past, I felt like I had to show up properly ashamed of who I am in order to let others know that I get it. I am a failure. You don’t need to tell me. I know before you do.
But that is not the way Christ wants us to show up.
Romans 5:5 says, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (NIV).
As a Christ follower, hope is where we are to put our hearts — not shame.
And even though nothing has changed significantly for me physically yet, the act of taking off this cloak of self-hatred for not looking like everyone else, not being like everyone else? I’m already feeling a lot lighter. Not physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
There are physical, medical reasons why my weight is my biggest struggle.
Not giving up.
Not a lack of faith.
I would never shame anyone for their medical condition, and now, after 55 years, I refuse to shame myself for another day because of mine.
Yes, there are things I need to do. That is true with any physical issue. But I refuse to see myself or believe that God sees me as less than because of this particular struggle.
Could you use some hope for an area of shame in your life too? I’m praying the Holy Spirit will speak loving truths to your heart.
Want to learn more about shame-free living? Click here to check out Kathi’s book, An Abundant Place.
Ruth Mills says
Kathi, I cannot believe you were given so much material for shame from multiple doctors as well as pastors. As Christ followers we should be the best encouragers ever. Speaking truth & hope into each other because of the truth & hope Christ has given us! I’m mad at those who were so ugly to you & SO thankful God led you to an MD that can encourage & give you hope! May we all walk in a manner worthy of THE HOPE, THE CHRIST helping each other throw off our cloaks of shame! Thank you for sharing this painful journey & the hope you have been given! Blessings!
Kathi Lipp says
The hope is the whole thing, isn’t it. So grateful for God being with us even when humans fail.
Thank you Kathi! I am a fluffy girl myself. My weight ballooned during COVID and I have been trying to lose it back. It is slow going. I got the slow metabolism my sister got the fast one so you can imagine all the self worth issues I have experienced. It is hard to let go of the memories when people in my family have made comments even though they are not skinny themselves. My mom once offered to pay for a tummy tuck if/when I lose the weight.
I am losing now because I want to be around for my kids and grandkids in the future. It does make me feel better to have lost some. I wish people really understood how difficult it is.
Kathi Lipp says
Our older relatives are sometimes still stuck in diet culture – it’s such a brainwashing. I love that you are doing all of this for the right reasons.
Brenda M. Russell says
What an awesome article this morning. Yes, I am struggling with obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, type II diabetes, sleep apnea, depression and anxiety, fatty liver disease (nonalcoholic) and guilt. I feel guilty for the years I have spent under the influence of feeling 2nd class. I can only imagine how it would feel to walk and sleep with out discomfort or pain. I’m doing better and God gets the praise, honor and glory.
Let’s stop making ourselves and others feel less than.
God loves all of His children.
Enjoy your day
Kathi Lipp says
YES! such a great message Brenda!
Jan Reader says
I always look forward to reading your articles. Thank you for using your unique voice to help others.
Kathi Lipp says
Jan – thank you for your encouragement – it means the world!
Robin Dance says
What a WORD of encouragement you’re bringing today!! Thank you for giving us the very thing you needed; there’s such a freedom in being seen, heard, and valued, isn’t there? It makes me sad for you to have lived under that mantle of shame in areas where you should’ve been protected, but sensing the victory you’ve gained is such a beautiful reflection of Jesus. xoxo
Kathi Lipp says
Yes- Jesus never fails even while (good intentioned) humans do. Love you friend.
Sharon A says
Oh Kathi I am so sorry you went through this! Thanks for being so open and vulnerable. Your new doc sounds like a true git from God! I will be praying for help with this struggle. I know what it’s like to hurt and it is exhausting. Praise God for sending you hope.
Kathi Lipp says
Thank you for your prayers!
Wow Kathi what an encouraging post! Thank you for sharing your journey
So inspiring and encouraging ❤️
Kathi Lipp says
Thank you for encouraging me right back!
You served so many when you brought the burden and uselessness of shame front and center through your relatable writing to share how it is possible, loving,and life freeing to shout,” No more shame!”
Kathi Lipp says
Thank you for your sweet and specific encouragement Kathleen.
Kathi, your post really resonated with me. Shame from those who had an optimum opportunity to encourage… I’m so thankful your new dr wasn’t like the others. Not hating myself has been a pivotal point of change for me too. Blessings to you, sweet sister, on your journey to health in all areas of life. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you so much for sharing! I’m so sorry this happened to you! Big hug and blessings to you!
Thank you for sharing your story so openly. I too have felt shame. Shame for not being enough, shame for not being skinny enough, shame for not achieving more, a marriage partner choice, and the list goes on. I am enough!
Catherine Scible says
Spot on! Been there, done that! Thank you for making yourself vulnerable.
I went to a doctor earlier this year about sleep apnea. She told me to lose 70 pounds, “it’ll be easy.” Lady, if it were easy, I’d have already done it!
Ariel Krienke says
Thank you for this encouraging message. I too have worked lots on my weight and it has been frustrating. I feel better though since I found shoes that are better for my feet. Now I see workouts as an act of worship to our Lord God instead of a chore
Oh, Kathi! My heart weeps for you! Grace! This doctor extended grace. And empathy. Just like our Lord does! And you found her! Well done!
Donna Burttschell says
I am in the longest season of depression and anxiety I have ever experienced in my life. I pray for others and stand on God’s promises each day. May the Lord bless you all with His wonderful presence and healing
Lisa Lamirand says
I so appreciate you sharing this insight! For years, I attended church, being reminded EVERY Sunday that I was a sinner. Like you, I didn’t have to be reminded. I am grateful for the lessons I learned about myself over the last several years, and how little I thought of myself. We do the best we can with the tools we have- AND- let’s embrace growth that encourages and uplifts one another. It does require effort (some days more than others), but it’s always worth it.
Kathi, you are a beautiful child of the King ❤️ theres no room for shame in the arms of Jesus. Thank you for sharing your heart.
Becky L says
Thanks for sharing your experience in life. I gained some weight after I had an injury at work where I fell and hurt my knee couldn’t go back to work due to modifies duty. Home by myself when husband was working. I had to find good things to talk about with God. I sat alot due to what I’d been thru in my body. I’m glad I’m now working part time at another place. There’s always something to look forward to in life. God always has a plan for us. It’s around the corner. Wait and see. God bless you and Merry Christmas
My heart needed *this* today.
God bless you.
Lori C. says
I am so sorry that you were treated so poorly. I avoided seeing a doctor for 18 years because I had been shamed so much about my weight. One of my earliest memories is of our family physician making derogatory comments about my weight.
I lived through pneumonia and other illnesses without seeking medical help because I could not face the shame and guilt that I knew I would receive.
Finally, I hit rock bottom and had to seek medical attention. I “gave it to God” and found a kind nurse practitioner. It has been several years now. I am not where I want to be physically, but I no longer carry the fear and shame.
My prayer for you is for you to continue to find the safe, secure place you deserve on your journey.
Beth Williams says
MDs should not shame their patients. It just turns us off & we leave them for someone else. They need to hear us out & give us ideas to help the situation. It is sad that many Christians berate others for their failings in life. They need to take a good look at themselves & see just where they fail-No one down here is perfect. I try to encourage others on their journey. Giving them the hope that is in Christ alone. Praising God you found a good MD to actually hear you out & give you ideas. Praying & asking God to help you lose the weight. Anything is possible with God.
karyn j says
this post was perfect and right on time…thank you for sharing!